Sunday, September 18, 2011

tales from the conference, part 1

This weekend Braeden and I attended the annual Regional YSA Conference in Nauvoo. We both went last year as participants, but this year (being married, and all) we were invited to come as the coordinators for the dances Friday and Saturday nights. This meant that we had to plan the themes for each night, decide on and create decorations and refreshments, and fight for more funding on our bi-weekly teleconferences every other Sunday evening for 3 months or so prior to the event. Needless to say, it became somewhat time-intensive. Rather than try to summarize all of our weekend happenings in one post, this will be the first of several where I tell you a Tale from the Conference.

The first night our theme was "Movie Night." We figured this would be a pretty low-key theme that wouldn't require too much money to pull off well. We did about an hour of get-to-know-you games at the beginning, since a complaint from last year was that there weren't enough of those at the conference.

Since we had over 300 people in attendance, upon entering the gym where we had the dance we asked people to split themselves up into smaller groups based on the movie posters we had hung around the room: these were now their teams for the next two games. As a warm-up activity we had them play the human knot game, which some groups finished really quickly, while others struggled for much longer (I maybe should have put a time limit...). Then we played "Name That Movie," an activity created by Braeden. For this game he created a movie with 30 second-long clips of 20 different movies: they had to name the title of the movie, the year it came out, and, for a bonus point, the name of the director. They worked in their small teams and the team with the most correct answers won a bag of Halloween candy—we collected the cards and announced the winners later on that night. The last activity we did was about 10 to 15 minutes of people bingo with custom cards to help people get to know specific things about each other: the first 5 people to turn in a full sheet of signatures won movie-style boxed candy.

Even though our microphone was not very loud and we had to basically yell into it to be heard I think the games went really well: people seemed to enjoy them and almost everyone who was there participated. We intentionally started the dance while people were still finishing up bingo so most people were on the dance floor already when the music started, making them more likely to stay and dance.

For refreshments we just did plain popcorn with seasonings you could put on yourself, things like powdered butter and salt mix, sugar (for Kettlecorn style), Parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper. I'm not sure how much people got into the popcorn thing (I think the many and varied toppings confused them and I was surprised how many people didn't know that Kettlecorn popcorn is just salt, butter, and sugar) but the twelve 3-liter bottles off-brand soda that we bought from the dollar store (best deal ever) were completely gone about half-way through the night. So there's that. Also, side-note, most people do not know you can pop your own popcorn with nothing but kernels, oil, a pot with a lid, and a stove top: many people expressed concern that we didn't have an air-popper to make the popcorn. Never fear! It's not hard! You too can do it!

But my favorite part of the whole first night was the surprise cake. Yes, you read that right, the surprise cake. A kid who had registered for the conference showed up and said that he had a layered cake he had brought to share: normal things. So the people at registration told him to bring it to the dance to put on the refreshment table. When we got wind of this I had pictured in my mind maybe a 3-tiered cake, wedding style: weird, but manageable. What showed up instead was this:
The Cake.
(Click to enlarge.)
6 cake layers and a bottom seventh layer of water and lights. Those are fake flowers that you see stuck into the cake itself and some sort of pillared platform support system holding it all up. He took over one whole refreshment table to set it up and unplugged out Christmas lights we'd taped around the edge of the tables so he could plug in his light-up base. Then he came into the kitchen looking for plates and forks to serve it.

When planning our activities we had a very small budget: $400 for refreshments (including paper products) and decorations. We were originally told to expect 600 people, but between 350 and 400 ended up actually attending, so that's about $1 per person on food. We bought these cheap paper boat things (like you get when you buy nachos at the movies) for the popcorn on the first night and no forks at all for either night because that's extra money: all our food was intentionally finger food. Then here comes this kid with a giant cake demanding plates and forks. And, not just any plates, mind you, he specifically requested 6-inch plates. The conference director was in the kitchen when he asked, and mentioned that we could probably scrounge up some 8-inch plates from somewhere and he replied, "No, 8-inch plates are too big: I need 6-inch plates." (If you have such specific requirements why would you not bring your own, or at least let us know in advance so we can provide some for you...?) So, the director, bless his heart, drove all the way to Keokuk, a 40-minute round trip, to buy this kid 6-inch plates and disposable forks.

But, as icing on the cake, as Cake Boy was cutting and serving his giant cake he literally licked the frosting off his fingers between each slice he cut and dropped florescent frosting on the carpeted floor where people stepped on it through out the night. A smashing success.


Sarah said...

Wow! What a night - and the cake boy ----interesting!

My Worthless Degree said...

I now regret my decision of moving to Boston! Ask "Stan" about Cake Boy. I think he used to admire her. That cake thing, though, would only happen at a Mormon function. No place else. Everyone else is too normal.

pieface said...

No way. Not real. I can't even believe it. What a loony.